* Retail sales end strong run with 1.1 pct monthly Nov fall
* Holiday sales strong, retailers predict 2.5 pct Dec growth
* Positive end to the year to boost GDP growth-economists
By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, Jan 7 Irish retail sales volumes fell on
a monthly basis for the first time in five months in November
but traders entered 2013 with cautious optimism after reporting
their busiest Christmas period since the financial crisis began.
While Ireland has avoided a return to recession compared
with much of the euro zone, its mild economic growth has been
built on a robust export sector with the domestic economy still
struggling with high unemployment and austerity.
Retail sales volumes, which have fallen for four consecutive
years and collapsed by 18 percent in 2009, dropped 1.1 percent
on the month in November, provisional data showed on Monday.
However unlike other euro zone strugglers who saw the bloc's
debt crisis batter holiday sales prospects, retailers in Ireland
said the key shopping period had been kinder to them due to mild
weather and less uncertainty among customers.
"In December, we were a little over 5 percent ahead on last
year and generally the store performed well across the board,
which is a relief," Nigel Blow, chief executive at Arnotts,
Ireland's oldest and largest department store, told Reuters.
"We've definitely seen business strengthen in the second
half of the year to the point that we're seeing modest growth
quite consistently year-on-year. I think you'd struggle to find
a retailer bold enough to say the tide's turned but things are
moving in the right direction."
Retail Excellence Ireland, the country's largest retail
industry body, said that activity picked up after the government
announced its latest budget on Dec. 5, with trading during the
post-Christmas sales up around 5 percent on the previous year.
Based on feedback from its members, it predicted that retail
sales would increase by between 2 and 2.5 percent year-on-year
in December and that less challenging comparatives in the early
part of 2013 would likely help boost sales in the first quarter.
The body's chief executive David Fitzsimons said electronic
goods were the big winner in the sales with one large retailer
seeing a 1,000 percent increase in the sale tablet computers, a
positive after Monday's data saw monthly sales of electrical
goods fall 18 percent month-on-month in November.
However that came after an even larger monthly increase in
October, driven by television sales following the switch-off of
analogue terrestrial broadcasting, and electrical goods sales
were up 4.8 percent year-on-year in November.
Volumes overall were 0.5 percent lower on an annual basis
and economists polled by Reuters expected that retail sales fell
by one percent for the year as a whole in 2012.
"Although the overall retail sales figures for November were
a bit weaker than we expected, there was always the feeling that
there would be a lull in spending ahead of the mad December rush
for the Christmas festive season," said Alan McQuaid, economist
at Merrion Stockbrokers.
"All in all, it now looks the fall in personal expenditure
in goods and services for 2012 won't be as weak as originally
thought, which will increase the chances of GDP growth coming in
at 1 percent or above for the second year running."